"Friend: One joined to another in intimacy and affection; sympathizer, helper." A friend is very hard to define; therefore, arbritarily, we refer to The Little Oxford Dictionary, the only dictionary at hand. And utilizing this definition we can seek still further and ask, "Who is our dearmost friend?" And even by this definition, we are in agreement with the verdict of Bhagavad-gita As It Is: Our dearmost friend is Krsna!
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is our dearmost friend. By Krsna is meant God. Krsna means all-attractive, for how can God be God if He does not have all attractive qualities in full? Krsna is full in the six opulences of wealth, power, fame, beauty, wisdom and renunciation. If someone has a little wealth or if someone is beautiful, he is attractive for that reason. But Krsna is all-attractive because He possesses all attractive qualities in full. We may find someone wealthy, but if we look further we will find someone with more wealth than him. Or we may meet someone who is very learned, but if we look further we will find someone with more knowledge still. But when we get to Krsna, we become at once satisfied and seek no further because no one has more wealth or knowledge than Him. Therefore Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, called Bhagavan, our dearmost friend. He possesses all opulences in full.
Since a bona fide spiritual master is the direct representative of Krsna, he shares in Krsna's qualities of excellence. Thus for the devotees of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada is also our dearmost friend. He is the external representative and the mercy incarnation of Krsna. Practically he is the only authorized source of bona fide information about the Personality of Godhead because he is instructing us according to revealed scriptures how we can revive our eternal relationship with God. By hearing such information from the bona fide spiritual master one can at once become detached from one's inferior engagement with matter and attach oneself to the transcendental loving service of the Lord. In this way one attains God. Therefore we consider the real friend to be he who can direct us to God, the supreme friend and well-wisher for all living entities, not he who merely claims to be our friend and asks us to tell him our problems. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada can direct us to God and is therefore our dearmost friend.
Returning to our definition of a friend, we find that he is one who is joined to another in intimacy. Let us now seek out who is joined to us most intimately, and we shall find Krsna! Krsna, according to Srila Prabhupada, is "closer to us than our jugular vein." This is confirmed by Krsna Himself in Bhagavad-gita: "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." (Bg. 15.15) Srila Prabhupada affirms that only Krsna knows the volume of our suffering, and only Krsna knows how nice we are.
He Knows Our Hearts
The next point in the definition is that a friend offers help and sympathy. Again let us seek out who is most helpful and sympathetic to us, and we shall find Krsna! Krsna, situated in our hearts, is so helpful that He guides us and gives us determination in pursuing our goals. Pervading the universe, Krsna is so sympathetic that He fulfills our every desire. Only Krsna can really help us or be sympathetic to us because only He has perfect knowledge of our desires, and He alone has the omnipotency to fulfill them for us. In other words, God is so kind that He gives us whatever we desire. Seated in our hearts, He knows what we actually desire, and directly or indirectly He fulfills that desire. Thus He is called in Sri Isopanisad the "self sufficient philosopher who is awarding everyone's desire since time immemorial." (Mantra 8.) Krsna says, "If you want to forget Me, you can forget Me forever; if you want to merge with Me, here is My effulgence, the brahmajyoti; and if you want to love Me, come we shall play as cowherd boys." God is kind to everyone.
The science of God and His relationship with us is elaborately explained in Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures. These literatures are designed to help the living entity realize his eternal relationship with the Supreme so that he can live happily in life. The factual relation between the Supreme Lord in the heart and the minute living entity, both of whom are spiritual and individual, is compared to that of two birds in a tree. The tree is the material body of the living entity. The living entity "bird," captivated by the fruits of the material tree, is tasting both the bitter and the sweet, while the Supreme Lord "bird" is witnessing the activities of His friend, fulfilling his desires by His omnipotence. This example is given in the Mundaka and Svetasvatara Upanisads, where the living entity is called "atma," while the Supreme Lord in the heart is called "Paramatma." Though both are spiritual, the Supreme Lord is accepted as superior; therefore the Lord is simply witnessing the activities of His friend, waiting for him to surrender to Him.
Thus we see that the living entity is individual, and he has some minute independence, though he is always associated with and subordinate to the Lord, however forgetful or unconscious he may be of that relationship. Who could be a better friend than Krsna, staying with us in every circumstance? While we are changing from tree to tree, or body to body, Krsna, who is not affected whatsoever by this mundane world, accompanies us lifetime after lifetime. He is waiting for us to intelligently use that independence He has given us by surrendering to Him, thereby ending the cycle of repeated birth and death. Even in the liberated state He stays with us. The living entity and the Supreme Lord, though distinct from one another, always remain together. "The same living entity is eternal and is joined to the Supreme Lord by the tie of an eternal kinship." (Brahma-samhita) They are joined intimately, as two distinct individuals, eternally. The living entity must simply agree to accept the supreme will of the Supreme Lord; then he will be happy. The Lord, having given us independence, is so kind that He will fulfill our desires no matter what they may be. Man proposes and God disposes. The Lord is neutral toward all His sons and daughters, and He never interferes with the way in which we use our independence. If a son insists on doing something nonsensical, the father will reluctantly give his sanction. "All right, if you insist, go ahead." Similarly, the Supreme Lord allows us to exercise our minute independence, and since we are helpless to fulfill our desires, He fulfills them for us.
For example, in Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are temporary and limited." (Bg. 7.22) But "I am in everyone's heart as Paramatma. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity." (Bg. 7.21) Then, present in the heart of the demigod, the Supreme Lord arranges for the demigod to fulfill the desire of the living entity. Both the demigod and the living entity are dependent on the Supreme Will. Even the fruits awarded by the demigods are created of Krsna's energy. So Krsna says that "in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone." (Bg. 7.22) Therefore, from beginning to end, Krsna is fulfilling our every desire. Who could be a better friend than Krsna?
Whatever We Desire
Birth after birth, body after body, Krsna grants whatever we desire. Thus the body we take is created according to our desire. As long as we desire a material body, Krsna will give us one. "The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life as the air carries aromas. Thus does he take one kind of body and again quit it to take another. The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a particular type of ear, sense of touch, tongue, and nose, centered about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects." (Bg. 15.8-9) Krsna gives us our body, and then He accompanies us inside of it, but He is not responsible for how we utilize it. We get a particular body and various circumstances of birth according to our actions(karma) and what we are thinking of at the time of death in other words, according to our own desires. "Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me." (Bg. 9.25)
By thus understanding that God grants material facilities according to our desires, we can understand that our suffering in the material world is due to us, not the Lord. The Lord is neutral to all His children, giving us whatever we want. God never interferes with the desires of the living entities, for if He did, what would be the meaning of the minute independence He has given us, and where would there be any possibility for love? In ignorance we think we are God or that we can enjoy independently of God, and so the Lord gives us this material body and material world. But the Lord is hoping that we will give up our material desires and come to Him. In the material world, the state provides both prisons and universities. Although wishing for everyone to enter the universities, it provides the prisons because it knows that some individuals will misuse their freedom and thereby merit entrance into the prisons. Similarly, God is kind even to the demons. As stated in the Vedanta-sutra, "The Lord neither hates nor likes anyone, though He appears to." Atheistic persons who are envious of God and wish to forget Him undoubtedly suffer, but even this suffering is God's kindness. Since demons are desirous of forgetting Krsna, Krsna simply gives them the particular birth and body just suited to their forgetting Him, which is actually what they want: "These do I put into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life. Gaining repeated birth among the species of demoniac life, such persons can never approach Me, and gradually they sink down to the most abominable position of existence." Such an abominable position is actually the desire of the demons and it is the mercy of God that such a desire is fulfilled. Desire is a subtle form of conditioning. The demon initially puts himself into demoniac conditions by misusing his independence, and only then does the long chain of material actions and reactions begin. Falsely identifying with such temporary situations, the bewildered demon wrongly blames the Lord for his condition, which in actuality is due to his own desire: "The living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world." (Bg. 13.20)
But God is so kind and merciful that He will sometimes pull a demon out of his suffering, even though such a demon may be attached to his demoniac position. For example, sometimes God Himself will descend to kill a demon, and so great is God's mercy that just by being killed by the Lord, the demon gains liberation. Or sometimes the Lord will send His son or representative, so that even the most abominable person can be elevated to the platform of transcendental loving service to the Lord simply by being graced by the dust of the lotus feet of such a pure devotee. Devotional service to the Lord is the perfection of life, and such service can be attained only by the mercy of the Lord and His pure devotee; there is no other way. The pure devotee is considered even more merciful than the all-merciful Lord because while the Lord will give us whatever we want, His pure devotee will give us the Lord only. If one is graced by a pure devotee such as His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, one has every possibility of himself becoming a pure devotee and thereby attaining the special mercy of God.
Impartial Or Partial?
As kind as God is even to the demons, He is kinder still to the devotees. Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Maharaja, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, states in his Brahma-samhitacommentary: "It is a great wonder that Krsna, being impartial, is fully partial to His devotees." Krsna Himself hints at this seeming contradiction when He says in the Gita (9.29), "No one is envied by Me, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. Yet whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am a friend to Him." The presence of simultaneously contradictory qualities in Krsna is a further feature of His completeness, for how could God be God if He did not have all qualities and if He could not bewilder our limited brains with His inconceivable greatness. But God is so kind that He has provided a self-realized spiritual master who can impart knowledge of this great science of Krsna to our conditioned souls so that we may penetrate a little into the mystery of Krsna.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada directs us back to Chapter Four, Verse 11, of the Gita, to understand this seeming contradiction: "All men, as they surrender unto Me, I reward accordingly." In other words, as the demon is busy ignoring Krsna, Krsna similarly ignores the demon; and as the devotee is actively trying to care for the interests of Krsna in devotional service to the Lord, the Supreme Lord Himself takes special care of His devotee. This reciprocation is natural. In the material world a man may be very charitably disposed toward all living entities, yet it is expected that he will take a special interest in his own children. Similarly the Supreme Lord, while kindly disposed toward all His parts and parcels, reciprocates in love with His devotees, who are engaged cent percent in His transcendental loving service.
He Supplies Our Needs
While kindly fulfilling the needs of all His parts and parcels, God takes special supplies the necessities of life to all His sons and daughters. From the tiny ant to the great elephant, all receive His mercy in the shape of food, sunlight, air and whatever else is required by them for their maintenance. The impartial raincloud abundantly pours rain everywhere, be it on the rocks, the land, or the sea. Similarly God impartially fulfills the desires of all living entities through the agency of material nature. But in the case of devotees He takes special, personal care. Brahma, the creator of this universe, prays, "I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who burns to their roots all the fruitive activities of those who are imbued with devotion, and who, in accordance with the chain of their previously performed actions, impartially ordains for all those who walk in the path of work the due enjoyment of the fruits of their activities, no less in the case of the tiny insect named 'indragopa' than that of Indra, King of the demigods." (Brahma-samhita, 5.54) In other words, God impartially rewards those who indirectly serve Him by serving His material energy, and the agency for such rewarding is the mechanical working of material nature. But God takes personal charge of the life of His devotee, who serves Him directly as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Gita Krsna states that out of many thousands of men, few will seek perfection, but that in return, "I will give them the understanding by which they can come to Me. Out of compassion for them, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance." (Bg. 10.10-11) In this way God is both partial and impartial. He gives us whatever we want. He shines like the sun for everyone, but those who wish to remain in the closet of material nature receive no tangible benefit. Still, He impartially offers the possibility of His special care to all, and we take shelter of Him or of His material energy, maya, as we choose. Krsna confirms, "I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency, and so the deluded world knows Me not." (Bg. 7.25) "O son of Prtha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service." (Bg. 9.13)
Surrender To Krsna
Thus Krsna, whether we take shelter of Him or not, is always our dearmost friend, since He always takes care to fulfill our desires. And beyond merely fulfilling our desires, He encourages us to desire for Him. Then, when we surrender to Him, we become happy, and He takes special care of us. He knows us and fulfills our desires by His expansion as Paramatma, or Visnu. But superior to the realization of Paramatma is realization of Krsna engaging in loving affairs with His pure devotees in His original form in His spiritual abode. At the end of Bhagavad-gita, Krsna gives His final instruction to Arjuna: "Surrender to Me." He has previously stated that He and Paramatma within are one, so His instruction is that somehow or other we surrender unto Him within or without. "The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy. O scion of Bharata, surrender unto Him in all respects, so that by His mercy you can have transcendental peace and eternal abode. Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and do what you wish to do." (Bg. 18.61-63) Krsna, being so kind, invites us to serve Him, but He never forces us, nor does He interfere. And at once Arjuna replies, "I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and now I am fixed without any doubt, prepared to act according to Your instructions." By the mercy of Paramatma one gets the intelligence to attain Krsna. The living entity "bird," having surrendered to his dearmost friend the Paramatma "bird," becomes free from the entanglement of the material tree and is available to associate directly with Krsna in pastimes of love in the spiritual world.
Krsna Is Real
Krsna stands before Arjuna as a person on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra as his dearmost friend and helper and we can understand that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is talking to His friend. There are many pictures of Krsna in His original transcendental form standing and talking to Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. But how are we to understand that God is in our hearts? He is there in His beautiful four-handed form as Visnu, and He is just as real as if He were standing before us and talking to us. He is there within the heart, and we must purify ourselves in order to see Him. Do not think that "God is in our hearts" is simply a truism. He is there and can be seen by a pure devotee.
This investigation of the friend within our hearts when based on the scientific information regarding the living entity and the Supreme Soul presented by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita culminates in the realization of Paramatma, as experienced by great sages like Narada Muni and described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. From these descriptions we can understand that Krsna is actually there, in our hearts, and that when we fully surrender to Him we become completely satisfied and can see Him face to face. And what do we see? We see the all-attractive transcendental form of our dearmost friend.
The meditation on this dearmost friend in our hearts is explained in the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam: "The process of meditation should begin from the lotus feet of the Lord and progress to His smiling face. The meditation should be concentrated upon the lotus feet, then the calves, then the thighs, and in this way higher and higher. The more the mind becomes fixed upon the different parts of the limbs, one after another, the more the intelligence becomes purified." (Bhag. 2.2.13) Thus is revealed the beautiful form of "the Personality of Godhead residing within the body in the region of the heart and measuring only eight inches, with four hands carrying a lotus, a wheel of a chariot, a conchshell and a club respectively." (Bhag. 2.2.8) "His lotus feet are placed over the whorl of the lotus-like hearts of great mystics. On His chest there is the Kaustubha jewel engraved with a beautiful calf, there are other jewels on His shoulders, and His complete torso is garlanded with fresh flowers. He is well decorated with an ornamental wreath about His waist and rings studded with valuable jewels on His fingers. His leglet, bangles, oiled hair curling with a bluish tint, and His beautiful smiling face are all very pleasing. The Lord's magnanimous pastimes and the glowing glancing of His smiling face are all indications of His extensive benedictions. One must there fore concentrate on this transcendental form of the Lord as long as the mind can be fixed on Him by meditation." (Bhag. 2.2.10-12)
"Thus being fixed, one must render service unto the Supersoul situated in one's heart by His omnipotency. Because He is the Almighty Personality of Godhead, eternal and unlimited, He is the ultimate goal of life, and by worshiping Him one can end the cause of the conditioned state of existence." (Bhag. 2.2.6) This is the final instruction of Krsna in the Gita: to surrender unto Him and render service unto Him. This is God's greatest kindness. Even though He is always fulfilling our desires, He allows us to fulfill His desires in transcendental loving service. Of course God is atmarama, self-satisfied, and in no way does He need our service, but out of His causeless mercy He allows us to render service to Him, and through the medium of the bona fide spiritual master He accepts our so-called service.
Actually in this age the meditation on God in the heart as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam is not possible. Our duration of life is too short and living conditions troubled. Even Arjuna, who was superior in all spiritual and material attributes, and who lived at a time much more conducive to spiritual realization than our own, rejected this system of yoga. "The system appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady, O Krsna, and to subdue it, is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind." (Bg. 6.33-34) And Krsna replied: "Of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is highest of all." (Bg. 6.47)
Thus the best way to realize Paramatma, especially in this age, is to realize Bhagavan, the highest realization of Godhead, which automatically includes all other realizations. Bhagavan, Krsna in His original form, is our dearmost friend. And what is the process for attaining Bhagavan realization? It is simply to render service to His pure devotee and to chant His name. This is the process recommended by Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita and made especially practicable by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in this age. Krsna says: "The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries." (Bg. 5.29) So it is up to us. We can do as we like; Krsna never interferes. "Yet whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am a friend to Him." Now what do you want to do?